Think Like a Retailer, Execute Like a Brand

May 9, 2017

Brands Andy Puddick By Andy Puddick

Q: What do so many top-performing retail websites do that many brand sites don’t?

A: They optimize their sites to increase conversion.

It sounds simple, but the steps to get there get complex very quickly. Optimizing a website (or any digital asset) means identifying weaknesses and opportunities and preparing strategies to address them.

With a predetermined testing plan and clear objectives, you can improve performance against key metrics. How do you create a testing plan and find possible wins?

Here are some of our top recommendations:

  1. Get to know your site visitors

Retailers want to sell stuff, right? The best-performing of them will go above and beyond to make finding and purchasing products as easy as possible. How do they do this? They have to know their visitors: who they are, how they got there and (possibly) even how valuable they are.

Ask yourself: Why are visitors even on your brand assets? What brought them there? What do they do when they are there? What else do you know about them?

As long as you have a working site analytics package in place you’ll have access to plenty of data.

Every action should be tracked so you already have a baseline — each call to action has a click-through rate (CTR), every goal has a conversion rate (CR) and visitors from different sources and on different devices are likely to interact differently. Review this data and see if you can see any trends.

For example, do visitors on mobile phones have a high bounce rate (leave after viewing one page only)? If so, why is that? Is your website mobile optimized, etc.?

  1. Review your assets and compare them to leading retailers

A good retailer makes the customer journey as simple as possible. Why? Because they want to make transactions as frictionless as possible. Benchmarking against retailer sites that are aligned with your brand values can accelerate your understanding of customer behavior and how to optimize the user journey.

Review some of the leading global and local retailer websites and look for some of the consistencies that customers have come to expect like localized language and clear, uniformly-placed calls to action. Is your customer journey simple and clear?

There’s nothing wrong with benchmarking against key successful e-retailers. In fact, it’s actively encouraged! If you know your site visitors well you should know which retailers they prefer.

Looking for industry insights is also recommended. What’s the average conversion rate on desktop, mobile and tablets? What insights can you get around the retailer’s marketing mix? The more you uncover, the more direction you’ll gain.

  1. Set goals

What do you actually want to achieve?

Most brands wish to drive as many leads as possible, but what’s that number/ratio? Do you want to increase average basket value? Or do you have a goal for retailer conversion rate and want to increase the likelihood of final purchase?

A great example is looking at product pages (PDPs). PDPs need to sell.

Do your PDPs give customers better information than they can find at your retail partner sites? If not, they should. If your brand site was a retail website, then the objective would be to get customers to purchase. Think of a Where to Buy button as an “add to basket” button. Consider every lead as a key step in the purchase funnel and make sure that your content sells your products and increases demand.

How do you measure demand using Where to Buy?

We encourage brands to aim for a CTR of >4% for embedded widgets (retailers displayed on product pages) or >7.5% for a pop-up widget (retailers hosted in a light box that is reached via a call to action). These can vary greatly between verticals and product popularity, traffic source and device type. Therefore, to optimize further, using your own assets as a control/baseline is the best strategy.

If you have a CTR of 3% on a pop-up widget then set a realistic goal of 4% (or maybe even 3.5%). If you have a CTR of 10%, congratulations! But you should still always be optimizing. (Remember that percentages can sometimes be misleading, so volume should also be a key metric).

We suggest using the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) method to set your goals, so the 4% CTR goal above should be written as follows:

“Achieve a minimum CTR of 4% on desktop devices leads by the end of the quarter.”

  1. Decide how to meet your goals

What do retailers do to get customers to fill their virtual shopping carts? They tailor landing pages, using consistent content that wows customers and answers their questions about products.

This is the time where you decide on your tactics and establish who is doing what and when.

What are you actually going to do to optimize?

While doing some research, you may have identified that your preferred retailers typically use black call to actions with white text that are to the right of the main product image and below a brief description, but above the main bulk of the text.

If all/any of these are feasible and fit within your brand values/image, then you now need to test to see if your visitors respond positively, negatively or are indifferent to these proposed changes.

The important point to make is that you need to compare against your control in real time. This means some visitors need to visit your original page version and others need to visit your new version(s). If you change just one variable then try an A/B test.

Randomly assign 50% of your traffic to the control version (A) and 50% to your new version (B).

If you have a lot of traffic and want to test multiple versions then multivariate testing (testing multiple variations) is also recommended.

Testing variables can include:

  • Text (such as ‘Buy now’ vs. ‘View now’)
  • Placement of call to actions
  • Price inclusion or exclusion
  • Elements added to increase confidence (such as reviews)

Test variations of these and eliminate the variables that are the least successful.

  1. Review performance

Tests need to achieve statistical significance to be truly effective and reliable. What if version B drives 50 more leads on one day than version A? This could just be a fluke. Statistical significance confirms, within a high level of confidence, that one version is more likely to succeed than the other. If no statistical significance is achieved then this suggests customers respond equally to each version.

Different testing variables will require a certain number of interactions before statistical significance can be achieved. The higher the traffic, the quicker inferences can be made.

Most testing software will have statistics built in so analysis should be a piece of cake! Let your data do the talking.

  1. Start again!

This process should always be iterative. Did some things fail? If so, why didn’t customers respond as positively as predicted?

And if you were successful, can you do even better? It’s worth a try!

Additional Comments

Knowing your visitors is what drives an e-CRM strategy. Being able to talk to customers as individuals is an amazing goal. Collecting data from every digital interaction and relating it all together is definitely possible. When you have a strong e-CRM strategy, testing and optimization can be taken to the nth degree. Are you ready to take your strategy to the next level? Contact us today and see how one of our e-commerce experts can help you optimize your site for conversion!